Lightning charge development. origin of jets, sprites and elves
Interestingly, has anyone wondered what the use of lightning is altogether? Judging by the fact that lightning strikes have also been found on other planets from the Solar System which have magnetic fields, we understand that their only objective is to give the electrons an opportunity to overcome the dense atmosphere of the troposphere. The torrential rains that normally accompany storms are simply a side effect.
The ionization of the atoms of atmospheric gases starts after a sufficient amount of ions accumulates in the proton radiation belt and the field gradient reaches a value for instance of 30,000 V/m. Under its influence the electrons start to accumulate on objects rising above the Earth’s surface, and in this way they create a sharp inhomogeneity in the Earth’s electrical field. In parallel with this activity, the potential difference starts detaching the outer electrons from the oxygen atoms and turns them into ions. Owing to the ability of the charged particles to become centers of condensation of atmospheric moisture, a storm cloud starts to grow above the zero-degree isotherm.
If the difference in the potentials between the cloud and the ground continues to grow, when it reaches 108 – 109 V, the ions rush downwards under the influence of the force of attraction to the negatively charged ground at an average speed of 105 – 106 m/s. Upon their collision with the neutral atoms of the atmospheric gases, they turn some of them into ions, and lead others only to a state of agitation. After returning to baseline condition in 10-8 – 10-10 seconds, they emit the obtained energy in the form of light. It is namely this light path, left by the ions, which we mistakenly continue to regard as lightning, although its purpose is simply to create an ionized channel for the real lightning.
This is confirmed by the high-speed photographs of lightning. It has been established that the lightning discharge begins with the falling of a thin spark from the cloud to the ground, called leader discharge. Bright light blazes at the moment of approaching of the leader discharge to the Earth’s surface. The reason for that is the instantaneous atomic recombination with the help of the electrons that expect the ions below. As we already know, during this event the ionization energy is emitted in the form of heat, for which reason lightning strikes often cause fires. There is nothing surprising in this, having in mind that the temperature of that blazing may reach up to 30,000 К. For this very reason, whenever lightning strikes into sand, it leaves a trail in the form of caked ground, called superstitiously by the people “the Devil’s fingers”. In the event lightning strikes on the earthed switch of the lightning conductor, melting of its edge occurs. Proof that it is impossible that the further movement of the leader may fail to stop is provided by the following fact – for the ions of the atmospheric gases the metal of the lightning conductor, which has a dense structure of the crystal lattice, is an insurmountable barrier. You should bear in mind that if it were not so, we would not be able to keep compressed gases in metal containers.
That is why at the moment of flare of the ionized channel, trailed by the leader at a speed reaching up to 0.05-0.5 of the speed of light, the electrons led by the Coulomb force rise into the clouds in the form of main lightning discharge. Thus the first stage of the galactic programme for synthesis of atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere ends.
After the completion of the first discharge occurs a pause of up to 0.05 seconds. In this pause the discharge channel continues to light, and if the Sun continues to send ions and electrons, second and subsequent discharges are possible.
However, all this is only the beginning, as the real purpose of lightning strikes – the encounter of the electrons with the ions, is not yet achieved.
The next stage begins after the accumulation of a certain amount of electrons in the upper part of the cloud. When the force of electrostatic attraction between them and the ions in the radiation belt reaches a certain threshold value, the electrons from below and the ions from above rush one against the other. On their way they agitate the atoms of the rarefied gases from the stratosphere and the ionosphere and make them, similarly to the aurora, emit light from the respective part of the spectrum. The agitated oxygen atoms emit green light, those of the nitrogen – violet-red, and those of the argon – blue. “Jets”, “sprites”, elves and the other light phenomena in the stratosphere and the ionosphere announce in this spectacular way to the space observers that the Earth continues to perform its galactic obligations.
The fact that the encounter of the charged particles and their turning into atoms are realised namely in the ionosphere is evidenced by the high temperature of the ionosphere. It is higher by more than a thousand degrees than the temperature of the mesosphere located underneath. One of the reasons for this anomaly is the energy emitted in the formation of atoms. It is about 5.109 kJ per year. More or less the same amount of energy would be emitted in the burning of 200 thousand tons of coal. Not by chance, this atmospheric layer is also called thermosphere.